See, Hear &   Feel the Music 

Others Clean, We Restore!

Commonly Asked Questions

"I have to declare that the KARC-1 is the best record cleaner on the market. Bar none.​"​

Paul Rigby

HiFi World Magazine (January 2019)

"The Kirmuss KA-RC-1 is the best commercial ultrasonic cleaner currently available on the market."

The Audioman

(on-line review January 2019)

Charles Kirmuss demonstrating how to use the KA-RC1 with an introduction by Mr. Michael Fremer ​from Analog Planet

Charles Kirmuss demonstrating the proper maintenance steps for the KA-RC1 after use

Showing off the system attributes of the KA-RC1 ​

The following is our Q&A Section answering many questions that we have received over time. If you have any additional questions, please send them to: ckirmuss@frontier.net

What are the differences between your Ultrasonic system and others?

We have spent 4 years in researching all past and current processes and methods to clean records. In fact, we found that most if not all processes only focus on cleaning the record’s surface. Many processes have been designed without understanding how records are made, their composition, and how various cleaners or processes may affect the records themselves. No one uses microscopic analysis or signal analyzers to evaluate their process. Exclusively no one speaks about “db signal gain” after a cleaning. This is as most processes just surface clean. We restore the grooves! Below is an image of fungus on a record’s surface and groove left over after cleaning by an ultrasonic at 4 times the price of the KA-RC-1.

We designed our process to clean the grooves, restoring the record, including the removal of the release agent residue. Further, our patented process assures the records are suspended at the proper height irrespective of the record size without damaging the label.

The above image shows the same groves after the Kirmuss Restoration Process

We use safe a 35 KHz ultrasonic frequency. Records float and are not skewered. Labels are kept dry and are not damaged. The entire record is restored up to the wax point of the record. No heaters are used and where we monitor water temperature. Studies of what custodians have been using as a drying method sees no air or vacuum drying, rather, the proven over time mechanical drying and groove polishing method. Additionally Ultrasonic technology while interesting needs to see records properly spaced in a bath if one it to take advantage of what an ultrasonic has to offer: cavitation.

In our cleaning process, a surfactant needs to be applied with a brush that is sized to fit into the grooves to wet the records and take advantage of the cavitating bubbles creating the “plasma wave that brushes in the surfactant”. This reduces surface tension of the vinyl. Without this there is no “restoration”.

Our Process sees multiple 5 minute cycles of surfactant applied with the record return to the washer. Typically 3 or 4 five minute cycles even for a new record are required, this to get the resulting plasma wave of the cavitation process deep down into the grooves and remove past contaminants including record release agents, left over cleaning agents, as well as fungus and dirt.

We also allow one to know when the restoration process is over, (something that no other manufacturer or process allows you to see!) and as in our case, is when a record is in fact “restored”. Timers are just that, no analysis is done, and records are not the same as we do not know their provenance and how they were handled over decades. In our process during the repeated cycles and application of surfactant brushed into the grooves we monitor the appearance first and disappearance or rapid evaporation of what appears to be a whitish - toothpaste like material that comes out of the grooves on the 2nd and subsequent applications of surfactant by brush. A increase first, then a decrease or rapid evaporation of this material confirms the last 5 minute cycle before drying and polishing.

What's in the "Surfactant" and Why do You Need It?

PVC Friendly, water soluble, 98- 99% Distilled Water and 1% - 2% Diol2 Propandiol 178, a type of ethyl glycol. It is brushed into the grooves.

Our mix is both anti-static and anti-fungal. It is PVC friendly and water soluble. This is needed as PVC in records rejects and repels water by its nature; the surfactant acts as a “wetting agent”, reducing surface tension and thus helps attract, for lack of a better term, the resulting 500 MPH plasma wave that results from the cavitating and exploding micro-bubbles in the tank. With the supplied surfactant brushed into the record’s grooves, this therefore assists in the cleaning action in the grooves.

A bath with distilled water alone or with a cleaning agent in an ultrasonic’ s tank added will not do anything to clean the grooves, it just lightly cleans or wets the surface. Keep in mind that WE RESTORE and not just clean the records' surfaces.

Can I add Photoflow on the basin/tank?

The short answer as to vinyl records is NO.
Photoflow which is used in the development of print film and paper repels water which is exactly the opposite of what we are trying to accomplish. Per KODAK: “decreases water-surface tension and minimizes water marks and streaks on film to promote faster and more uniform drying.” In a photographic washing process you want to see water run off the paper or film when it is drying to avoid water spots. Photoflow is added to the water in the wash cycle. Sonic cleaning systems need to see anything making contact with the record to attract the plasma wave to aid in the cleaning process. Adding Photoflow decreases the effectiveness of any surfactant applied on a record’s surface.

I see many blogs recommending adding isopropyl alcohol, 99%, in a 3:1 mix. Why do you not recommend more than 1.4 ounces of only 70% IPA to nearly 2 gallons of distilled water?

Studies have shown where high amounts of alcohol affect the plasticizer of the record, damaging the record over time. There are many published lists of how various agents affect or do not affect PVC.

Shellacked records cannot tolerate alcohol unless it is found in the ratio of our system. (For these records we brush in surfactant and only see one 2 minute cycle used).

The distilled water with the 1.4 ounces of 70% isopropyl alcohol as we recommend does not aid in the deep cleaning and restoration of record grooves. We use it just to wet the record and remove any fingerprints and dust, dirt, that may be on the record’s surface.

How many records can I clean with one "bath"?

You can clean two 33 1/3, one 45, and one 78 at the same time. The spacing between the records is crucial to the process, any larger number of record within the same space reduces the advantage of the ultrasonic that works the surfactant into the record grooves.

To the bath: We suggest you change out the distilled water with the 1.4 ounces of 70% IPA in the tank after restoring between 15 to 20 records or when the water becomes murky. Severely contaminated records will show up with murky water in the tub. Do not let the water stand in the restoration system overnight. It will grow fungus once the alcohol has evaporated.

Please discard.

How long will that Surfactant bottle last before I need to replenish it?

You should be able to clean between 100 and 150 records before requiring a new spray bottle. (60 mL). The number of applications depends on the number of 5 minute cycles that you require to restore the record. Eight applications would see less records restored, around 60.

Also available: a 300 mL refill bottle. This is approximately 20% lower in cost.

Why doesn't your machine have a drying mechanism? A vacuum?

In our studies of record washing programs and methods it has been very evident in our research where many sonic systems that air dry the record by way of a fan after being processed ultrasonically sees this air drying process dry onto the record whatever contaminants were left in the ultrasonic bath. This defeats the purpose of cleaning a record, one would think. Added, the fan itself blows dust onto the record and moving air also adds a static charge to the record. These both cancel out entire effort to clean the record!

As to vacuum drying: Vacuum drying brings through the Venturi Effect surrounding dust back onto the record. While the vacuum sucks off water from the enzyme cleaner (many of which are not PVC friendly) this process does not go into the grooves and does not remove all of the residues left of the cleaning agent and process. Moving air also charges the record, creating an issue of static.

Only the use of a mechanical system as in our process, such as an optician’s cloth as well as the use of a parastatic felt brush by mechanical means removes any contaminants from the grooves. A little elbow grease goes a long way!

I'm interesting in purchasing the KA-RC1 record cleaner, but I have one concern with the system. There is no filtration system for the holding tank and isn't it concerning with chemicals/dirty residue from dirty records after each cleaning?

Firstly, anyone that advertises that they have an effective filter to clean water in a sonic bath or tank as in other laboratory grade equipment is fooling the buyer.

Below is a picture of a filter used in a $5,000 ultrasonic record washer. Measurement taken by our 2D/3D microscope.

Fungal spores found on records are 1- 3 microns (µm) in size. Depending on the spore. They end up in the reservoir of the ultrasonic system. After analysis, the filter in this very expensive machine cannot filter out anything less than 143-160 microns (µm). To note where sand ( particle size > 63 µm ), silt (particle size > 2 µm), dust (particle size 0.5 to 100 µm, all pass through the supplied filter of this very expensive machine and return to the water in the tank. They are using a $2.00 foam filter. This manufacturer also asks one to keep the water in the tank and replace it every 100 records. Fungus grows in stagnant waster! That is why we sometimes need to process a record for 6 or 7 five minute cycles as we have to strip out these remnants of prior cleaning processes that rely on air drying that are “baked” onto the record.

To your question: we therefore ask you change the water out every 15 or so records.

After the last 5 minute cycle in your machine, what do you then do?

Records by their nature repel water so when we do the final 5 minute cycle with the sonic and surfactant, we then remove the record and then with the record mounted at our work station horizontally, mist very lightly the record with distilled water at 12, 4 and 8 o’clock positions. We then rely on our mechanical process of using an optician’s cloth to dry the surface and then use the parasitic felt brush to polish the grooves.

In our process we therefore provide 1.5 to 5 dB gain to your phono stage.

Are all ultrasonic machines safe for records?

Frequency is key, we use 35KHz.

The Higher the frequency, the higher the speed of the resulting plasma wave from the cavitating microbubble. On the opposite end, 25 KHz is too low a frequency to provide any effective cleaning of a record’s groove, plasma wave is too slow. 125, 190 KHz, not to be used!

To note where there are other elements to consider when selecting an ultrasonic based system:

Temperature is critical: Ultrasonic bubbles create heat when they cavitate (burst), thus water in the tub of any sonic used should not exceed 95 deg F. Our system allows you to see the progression of this heat generated by the cavitation process. We signal a visual alarm.

What is in the tank is also critical: in our process we use no enzymes, no non PVC safe materials, only water soluble surfactants. Many systems use high concentrations of alcohol which damages the plasticizer of the record. Others see the creation of more fungus with enzyme based agents.

Systems with tanks that keep water for more than a day should be avoided, as fungal spores are omnipresent, causing health risks.

We recommend where the water in our tank is not kept for more than one day.

Are all machines on the market compliant with electrical safety regulations?

Every manufacturer should have available a certificate in their name from a qualified testing laboratory that meets with local electrical and safety requirements.

DIY systems see contraptions that hold the records which can be dangerous if they fall into the water with a potential for electrocution.

Our system is ETL Tested.

What do I look for when cleaning records that tells me when I am on my last 5 minute cycle with the surfactant applied?

With any system and in stating that a record is clean in 5 minutes or 10 minutes is not accurate. In fact it is arbitrary. Is it Clean? Some ultrasonic systems need severely contaminated records to be washed repeatedly for 60-90 minutes and still not having the expected results commensurate to the time spent. In our process we allow one to see first hand when the record has been restored.

After every 5 minute cycle using our surfactant applied to the surface of the record, we keep applying this to the record by way of brush and between applications until there is a noticeable decrease in the presence of a white paste-like substance while the brush is used. Or rapid evaporating of this materials. This is validation of our restoration action stripping out fungus and contaminants not removed by other systems or processes.

How many times do I need to repeat the cleaning 5 minute cycle using the surfactant before I can no longer see "soapy/pate like residue appear”?

Very hard to give you an exact number as one does not now the provenance of the record and how it was maintained. In general, new records see 3 or 4, 5 minute cycles with corresponding application of surfactant needed. Users that have cleaned their records in a prior ultrasonic cleaning system using a fan to air dry and where the water has not been changed for months, or for a tank that managed 100 records, sees us repeat our cycle 6 or 7 times. With records cleaned with vacuum systems, 4 to 5 five minute cycles are common. This is not the fault of our process, it is a result of the record being improperly cleaned using another process. Generally 4 to 5 five minute cleaning cycles suffice.

After watching ALL your YouTube videos (many two or three times over), I am totally convinced I went with the right machine for the job. As to the final treatment before placing the record away in the record sleeve understood where a single shot of mist of the surfactant is applied at arm’s length to a cleaned and dry goat hair brush which when the brush is applied over a spinning record polishing it and this then evaporates, when I pull that same record out of it's sleeve to play it at a future date, will I have to go through the entire cleaning process again? After playing it, should I use the "surfactant" again before placing the record back into it's sleeve?

NO: Once every two years apply surfactant at 12, 4 and 8 o’clock positions on the record and then insert the record back into the machine for one 5 minute cycle. Then dry and polish as usual. Then do use the goat hair brush with a mist of surfactant applied to a spinning record on a turntable to polish.

Take the record out of its non PVC, non paper sleeve, place on the turntable mat, then use both the felt then the carbon fiber brush to remove dust, then play. (We supply PVC free, anti-static, anti-fungal record sleeves.)

When playing a restored record: what should I do?

When playing any record, restored or not: Take the record out of the sleeve, set the record on the turntable mat, spin the record. Using our combination carbon fiber and parastatic felt brush, use the felt brush to first remove dust from the record’s surface, then use the carbon fiber side to remove finer dust in the grooves as well as to remove static before playing the record. Play the record. Then return the record to its sleeve. If your turntable is equipped with a cover, close the cover. This reduces dust from being attracted to the record as it spins and landing on the grooves. Also reduces static “charging” of the record. The cover also reduces the cartridge from picking up reflections of sound from the speaker depending on where the turntable is located.

I have another ultrasound machine, but would like to try the rest of your system. Mine is a type DYI built in China, 200 W with 40khz freq, and with the water warming to 120 deg.. The records are skewered 8 records spaced by ½”. Haven't been impressed by the job it has done yet. Can I use your fluids?

Many points: Using distilled water I am assuming in a tank alone will not see ANY ultrasonic do much as vinyl PVC repels water. When the sonic microbubbles collapse, the resulting wave will not do much to clean the grooves. The record spaced at ½” sees the microbubbles implode before rising, thus the system does not see the ultrasonic clean the record. With records now spaced apart at as distance unknown as we do not know the configuration of the sonic transducers, brushing in our surfactant in the grooves will assist in cleaning your grooves, BUT IN FACT at the same time will accelerate the damage, as now the 40 KHz in the areas of the wave hitting the record via cavitation will now see the 40 KHz wave of the machine you bought from China “sandblast” the grooves. This as aided by our surfactant as a wetting agent that was brushed in the grooves. Review our web site for details as how we use a 2D/3D Microscope to study effect and cause. Our system uses safe 35 KHz and where we have designed a system that spaces records correctly which also does not have a heater which will heat water in excess of 94 deg F. . It seems your system has a heater. We strongly dissuade you from using 40KHz with our surfactant applied. I am very sensitive to this. Many people read blogs and are not experts.

I used your system and ran my record through a total 2 five minute cycles: one with no surfactant applied, then one with your surfactant brushed in. I then dried the record , then played it on my turntable. I noticed a white fluff appear on my stylus. What is this?

In our videos and documentation we ask that you look at the rise and then fall of the “whitish like materials” that comes out of the grooves when we brush our surfactant into the grooves in subsequent 5 minute cycles. This after the second 5 minute cycle using surfactant. We recommend for new records one uses 3 or 4 five minute cycles on the record. In your situation the white “fluff” or residue that appears on your needle is the softened contaminants that the process has started to loosen from the grooves. Now dislodged by the needle. Try another 3 five minute cycles. Watch for the rise and fall of the whitish materials that the goat hair brush picks up when new surfactant is applied and is brushed in. The reduction or quick evaporation indicates to you the last 5 minute cycle before drying

If I run the machine for 15 minutes, will this clean the grooves better than in repeated 5 minute cycles?

PVC (vinyl) repels water. When we apply surfactant into the grooves of the record by way of our goat hair brush and subject the record to a 5 minute cycle, as we approach the 5 minute point, all of the surfactant has already been removed by the ultrasonic cavitation process. Keeping the record in the machine for another 10 minutes will not see any significant improvement as where there is no longer any surfactant in the record’s grooves.

I have been told by many audiophiles where I should use De-Ionized water or Aquafina Drinking Water and not distilled water. You recommend distilled water. Please explain.

The oldest method for production of pure water is the thermal method or distillation. Distilled water is water that has been purged of impurities by evaporating it through boiling and then letting it re-condense elsewhere. This is the most natural form. When water evaporates, all the non-volatiles dissolved in the water are left behind, though some volatiles will evaporate with the water, such as nearly all minerals, many chemicals, and most bacteria. When the water re-condenses in a different container, the water will be closer to pure H2O. This works not only for minerals but also for neutrally charged organic material, bacteria, and viruses in most cases. Distilled water is not recommended to be used for drinking as it lacks the minerals which can also provide health benefits.

Using electrolysis and or osmosis added as a process, Deionized water is water where the dissolved ions have been removed leaving mostly pure water and is created by mixing the water with an electrically charged resin containing cations, anions, or both. Although this process removes dissolved minerals from the water, it is not effective in removing bacteria, viruses, or non-charged organic molecules.
Since both treatment methods produce high purity water, choosing between deionized water vs. distilled water often depends on how you're using it. Distilled water is often more pure, especially if it's been filtered first, and it should not contain any bacteria or other pathogens which could, in theory, be left in DI water. Distilled water, especially if it's been double or triple distilled, can be used for nearly all laboratory applications, including those in which DI water might not be pure enough. As we are dealing with fungus, and its removal from records, we do not want to use deionized water in any form in our sonic bath/tank.

What about alcohol and records?

FYI: There are 2 types of alcohol: Water soluble, non-soluble. 91-99% IPA is non water soluble. 70% IPA is an ether that is soluble. We use the latter diluted just to remove finger oils from the surface. We mix 1.4 ounces of this in our system’s tank. Our mix is PVC safe. We use this to remove surface grease and fingerprint oils and wet the record. It does not clean the grooves. The brushed in surfactant with the ultrasonic does this.
Alcohol will damage some plastics, but not all. Many blogs are not clear as to this. See below… Our chemist confirms by the resin code, or "recycling symbol", found on most plastic items:
Poly(ethylene terephthalate), PET or PETE - PET is not very soluble in ethanol or isopropanol, but prolonged exposure may cause crazing or stiffening due to the dissolution of plasticizers.
High-Density polyethylene, HDPE - HDPE is resistant to most things.
Poly(vinyl chloride), PVC - PVC is not very soluble in ethanol or isopropanol, but prolonged exposure may cause crazing or stiffening.
Low-Density polyethylene, LDPE - LDPE is resistant to most things.
Polypropylene, PP - PP is resistant to most things.
Polystyrene PS - PS is not very soluble in ethanol or isopropanol, but prolonged exposure may cause crazing or stiffening.

Please note where plasticizers come into play. Plasticizers or dispersants are additives used in the base PVC materials of the record that increase the plasticity or fluidity of a material. Plasticizers are added to help maintain flexibility in a plastic. Various phthalates are commonly used for this purpose. Since they are small molecules they may extract or leach out of the plastic causing a loss of flexibility with time. Just as deliberately added small molecules may leach out, small molecules from the environment may be absorbed by the plastic and act like a plasticizer. Compatibility in the Hansen system increases when values of all three forces of solvent closely match the values of solute. Benzyl butyl phthalate has the best match of parameters with PVC and it is known to be the most aggressive plasticizer of PVC. In the case of phthalates, which are used in the manufacture of vinyl records, we see where the longer the hydrocarbon chain of alcohol involved in plasticizer, the worse the match of its parameters and the worse a solvating power of plasticizer. Diisononyl phthalate is close in solvating power to di-(2-ethylhexyl) adipate which is considered as a secondary plasticizer. The length of hydrocarbon chain in alcohol influences critical solvation temperature. In practical terms, less volatile, higher molecular weight plasticizers require increased processing temperature.

All said and told: 91-99% IPA while not water soluble is not detrimental to casual contact with a vinyl record. Only if there is constant prolonged long term contact in also large concentrations is there an issue over extended time.

Alcohol in its form is a good degreaser.

We recommend only 1.4 US oz of 70% IPA to 228 US ounces of distilled water. Very diluted. We have taken much time study to determine what is minimally needed.

Also all alcohols evaporate, 4 hrs. for 70%. Much faster for others of higher concentrations (99%)..

The issue is the plasticizer and where we are compatible as a water soluble alcohol.

I recently saw a post from a Spin-Clean owner displaying that he is now an owner of a Kirmuss-Audio KA-RC-1 Ultimate Ultrasonic Record Restoration System. Being an owner and a first hand believer, I reached out to him to inquire with him how does he like it. Here's his reply: "I've only done a couple of albums so far but I'm genuinely impressed with the job that it does. Note that instead of the 70% alcohol, I'm using 3 drops of Tergikleen.” Is this safe?

Cleaning Agents such as Tergiclean are made of Tergitol(R) 15-S-7, which is a Secondary Alcohol Ethoxylate Surfactant and while it is considered as an excellent emulsifier & detergent by the manufacturer. The manufacturer of Tergitol recommends Tergitol to be used as a paint thickener and aids in rinse-ability of solvent-based systems. This product as suggested by the manufacturer is to be used as a solvent (dangerous to vinyl) and to use in cleaners, prewash spotters and paints & coatings. In our opinion, NOT FOR VINYL, DANGEROUS FOR VINYL. It in fact affects the plasticizer of the record.

What do the colored lights below the Countdown timer indicate?

As the ultrasonic sees the micro-bubbles cavitate and implode creating a 900 KPH (500 MPH) wave that hits the record and washes the grooves with the surfactant/wetting agent brushed into the grooves of the record, this ultrasonic action generates kinetic energy and creates heat. As you restore more records and run the machine, over time, the distilled water in the bath heats up. The colored bar underneath the timer shows one the progression of the heating of the water by this released energy. The bar moves left to right. When the machine starts with room temperature and temperate water, the green or green and orange lights are lit. As the system is used, temperature increases, and when it reaches approximately 90 def F (32 deg C), the long red bar lights up. This is normal. No issues for using the system to restore your records. When the water reaches approx. 94 deg F (34 deg C), the small red light to the right of the long red bar lights up. This indicates to your where you have two, three or four 5 minute cleaning cycles left. This before the same small red light to the right of the long red bar lights up and flashes. This indicates to you where you now have reached 105 deg F. (40 deg C.) At this point you need to take any records out of the machine and turn the machine power off, remove the record cover assembly , and let the water in the tank stand and to cool down. We do not want you to clean records at this temperature. Removing the cover speeds up the cooling process. In about 10 minutes of rest and you may start once more. Replace the cover, turn on the main power. To note: At 110-115 deg F, (43 - 45 deg C), this will affect your records. The small red flashing light indicates 104 deg F (40 deg C.) and where we provide you with a margin of safety. Once repowered: It is OK to restart and restore records once more with the long red bar lit. It is safe. Also if you are running the machine non-stop and continuously, turn the machine off every 35 minutes and remove the cover, this to cool down the ultrasonic transducers.

I have a record that I coated with a protective coating. I hear the difference where the record is not as “bright”, less timber than the same record that has not been coated. Will your process remove the coating?

Yes. When you apply our surfactant on the coated record you will in fact see hundred or thousands of small waster droplets appear on the record’s surface. This confirms where a coating has been applied as the coating repels water. This coating makes it more difficult for our process to actually clean the grooves as we have to first remove this coating that is hindering our process. We suggest where you change the method used: brush in the surfactant and just a 2 minute cycle instead of a 5 minute cycle. Keep the record in the machine for only 2 minutes. This as the coating will see the surfactant removed very quickly. Repeat the 2 minute process until you then see the rise and fall of the white paste appearing or its quick evaporation. It usually this takes 9 two minute cycles to restore a coated record.